There are a few things that come to mind when I think of summer. Tomatoes are definitely one of those things. It’s sunshine packed into a ball of juiciness. There are many things, I love to do with tomatoes: thick slices of tomatoes sandwiched between slices of buttered bread and cheese, thick slices of grilled tomatoes or a caprese salad, or in a tomato tart with a salty cheese. Tomatoes might just be one of those ingredients that can provide simple pleasures to to the soul, you don’t need to do much to enjoy them.
When I came across these beautiful “gumball” type cherry tomatoes at the Mountain View Farmer’s market, I was mesmerized by all the colors and in their sheer quantity. Even sorting through them to pick what I wanted was hard because there were too many choices and all good. Some sweeter than others, others saltier than some. It was a tomato lover’s heaven, a paradise whichever way you look at it.
This salad is very easy to make and with tomatoes as gorgeous as these you don't need to do much. I've added fresh brightly colored chilies for heat and color along with fresh cilantro leaves. I was hesitant to call this tamarind dressing a vinaigrette since tamarind plays the role of vinegar. This sweet tamarind sauce is flavored with the earthiness of jaggery/brown sugar and has a hint of smokiness from the toasted coriander powder. Serve this salad on a hot summer day with a generous amount of the dressing and you'll be very happy.
Here are some of my notes that you might find useful when preparing this salad,
- Use the freshest and “bestest” tomatoes that you can find. If you can find them in a variety of colors, go for it. It will make it even more fun and tasty. Every color has its own unique taste and flavor to enjoy.
- Personally, I like to start with cold tomatoes especially, when its hot. However, you can also use tomatoes at room temperature.
- To toast the coriander. Start with a 1/4 teaspoon whole coriander seeds. Place them in a dry skillet and heat on high until the seeds just start to brown and release the aroma. This happens quickly so be careful not to burn them. If they do burn, discard and start over. Grind the seeds to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. Since this volume is very small a mortar and pestle is the best way to grind them down. You could alternatively scale things up to a few tablespoons and then grind it fine using a spice mill and then store the ground powder until needed.
- If you use jaggery instead of brown sugar, I recommend breaking it by hitting it in a ziplock bag with rolling pin. The smaller you crush it, the faster it will dissolve in the dressing. I recommend trying the dressing with jaggery for a much more earthy sweet taste.
summer tomato salad with sweet tamarind dressing
yields: 2 to 4 servings
2 large heirloom tomatoes (see notes above)
2 cups cherry tomatoes (see notes above)
4 thai chili peppers, red and yellow color
2 tablespoons whole cilantro leaves, fresh
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder, freshly ground + extra if needed
2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
3 teaspoons dark brown sugar or jaggery crushed
1/4 teaspoon toasted coriander powder, freshly ground (see notes above)
100mL cup water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt flakes
- Thinly slice the heirloom tomatoes and arrange them on a serving platter. Add the cherry tomatoes over them.
- Slice the chili peppers lengthwise in half and arrange them over the tomatoes. Sprinkle the cilantro leaves over the tomatoes.
- Take a 500mL mason jar or glass jar with a lid. Add all the ingredients from the tamarind to the olive oil. Close the jar tight with its lid and then shake vigorously until it forms an emulsion. Taste the dressing and adjust seasoning if necessary with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle enough dressing over the salad and sprinkle with the Maldon sea salt flakes and/or pepper if needed. Serve immediately.